Tell us a little about your route to the PGA Tour.
As a young kid I played everything: baseball, basketball, football, golf, soccer, swimming. I went to a really big high school, and the coaches wanted the players to be dedicated to one sport. I played baseball for 10 to 12 years and football for eight years, but I chose golf because I was kind of tired of the team sport atmosphere. I liked golf because it was an individual sport, and it was the hardest. When I was nine years old, I watched Davis Love III win a big tournament; I turned around and told my father, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.”
This is a sport that places enormous mental and physical pressure on its competitors. How do you cope with those aspects of the game?
Anybody who plays this game knows it’s strenuous at all times. Very seldom does everything come together and you play great. [Two-time Masters winner] Tom Watson once told me that golf is a game in which you’re constantly trying to manage your problems. There are nine or 10 different parts to the game, and no matter how much you work on one, something else can fall apart. You’re constantly managing and balancing all these different parts, and trying to make a living at it. Once you get to the point where you can hit the ball well and putt well, then it becomes mental.
You’ve been a regular on the PGA Tour since 2009. Are you handling the pressure better now?
Absolutely. I was playing with three amateurs the other day and hit some of my best shots in front of big crowds. One of the guys I was playing with said, “Wow, you save all your good stuff for the big crowds.” To be honest, the more people watching, I tend to focus better. That goes for most of us on the Tour—we thrive on that pressure. We want that nervous tension, because over the years we’ve learned how to focus more intently. A lot of times when you’re out there by yourself you get a little bit lazy and you’re not as focused.
What do you think is the potential for your career?
As long as I keep getting better, I know the wins will happen. I feel like I can win multiple times. Jimmy Walker is one of my best friends out here on the Tour, and he didn’t win his first event until he was 35. Now he’s won five events the last two years. Ben Hogan didn’t win his first event until he was 36, and he was one of the best players of all time. Unlike football, basketball or baseball, this is a long career. I’m one of those guys that’s going to consistently get better and better.
Last year you were inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast in the sports legends category. What does that mean to you?
It was amazing going back to southeast Texas and being inducted into that museum. I had no idea how many incredible athletes were in that museum, or came from my part of the country. It’s just an incredible honor to be part of that and be affiliated with those big names. I’m in the same museum as Janis Joplin. I feel very fortunate to do what I do, and I’m looking forward to doing it even more.
By Chris Powell
Next article: Don’t Shank Your Mulligan: A Guide to Golf Lingo